Shahid Afridi   s stunning volte-face!    Getty Images
Shahid Afridi s stunning volte-face! Getty Images

 

By H Natarajan

 

Shahid Afridi has actually made Rakhi Sawant look like Einstein! I m simply staggered by the political summersaults the Pathan has been making since returning to Pakistan from Mohali.

 

One could have brushed aside it as another meaningless barb at India from the other side of the border, but these asinine statements are coming from the captain of the Pakistan cricket team. Afridi may not be Pakistan s head of state, but as the head of an influential sport and coming as it is close to the conclusion of the World Cup, his statements are attracting global coverage. It has the power to influence the masses and derail any attempts that are being made or seemingly made – to restore normalcy between India and Pakistan.

 

One needs to go through the chronology of events to see the complete lack of method in Afridi s madness.

 

The Pakistani captain won the hearts of Indians when he spoke like a statesmen without any hidden agenda on landing back home from India. He castigated reporters waiting for negative and sensational quotes on India by asking them: “I don t understand the thinking of our people? Why are we so against India? Why do you hate India so much? All houses in Pakistan watch Indian TV programmes, our marriage customs are so similar, all of us watch Indian movies, then why this hate for India?”

 

Afridi was animated and probably even angry without showing it while emphatically saying what he had to. The words seemed to come from his heart. But this is not what the vested interests politicians and mullahs wanted to hear from their national cricket captain. They did not want peace and harmony between the people of India and Pakistan. Unquestionably, Afridi s statements came as a shock to those within his own country and a pleasant surprise to those outside of Pakistan.

 

Within 24 hours or thereabouts, videos on YouTube shared across many social media platforms showed Afridi doing a volte-face. He dubbed the India media as negative A media that tends to make mountain of molehills. He said that the relationship between India and Pakistan has been soured because of the Indian media.

 

When quizzed how the relationship was with the Indian team, Afridi replied: “I don t want to lie. No matter how much we try, how much ever we extend our hands of friendship to them, they don t have the big heart that we have.”

 

That Afridi s statements were calculated and not a spur-of-the-moment indiscretion is clear when he went a step further in another television interview: “The heart that a Muslim has, the heart that a Pakistani has, they (the Indians) don t have. They (the Indians) don t have the purity in their hearts that we Pakistanis have. The clean heart that Allah has given us is not there with the Indians. It s a very difficult task to co-exist with India or have a long-term relationship with them. We have seen the number of times we have patched up and fought again. We (India and Pakistan) don t wish to fight, but it s a third country which is interested in spoiling our relationship which wants to take advantage of India which wants to take advantage of India. I don t wish to go into details, but they won t allow us to co-exist.”

 

The political slant is quite evident. It s obvious that he has come under political and religious pressure. His comments are provocative, geared at needling the people. He not only needlessly brings in religion but, worse, compares it unfavorably and uncharitably with Indians.

 

Without much thought to the raw sentiments of the families of 26/11 victims, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accorded a lavish welcome to his Pakistani counterpart in another attempt to restore peace and normalcy between India and Pakistan. And look what he has got in return!

 

Even if one were to buy the argument that Afridi was saying all those uncharitable and untimely things about India on his own accord, Islamabad could have made all the right diplomatic noises to counter the Pakistan captain s damaging statements. But by not responding, not only they have made it clear that they support the Pakistan captain s views on India, but in fact could have actually prompted him to say so. Worst, it was another embarrassment to the Indian Prime Minister after his Mohali diplomacy.

 

If you had any doubts about Afridi s chameleon-like change of colours, here are his latest comments.

 

“First of all, I want to congratulate the Indian team and the people for winning the World Cup. I have been playing cricket for a while. It is a shame that media has hyped up the issue. I have never discriminated between a Hindu or Muslim. It is all equal in our religion. My comments were misquoted by the media,” Afridi said.

 

Misquoted?!!! Mr Afridi, stop using this convenient clich . You were SEEN and HEARD whatever you had to say against India and Indians. Unless, of course, you are saying the tapes were doctored and that it s not your voice! It s okay; you are liberty to say that; many have said that, thinking that they can fool the people. They never succeeded. You can fool some people sometime, but not all people at all times. Heard that before, Mr Afridi?

 

The latest news from Pakistan is that all is well with India! And how! If you are an Indian, read it fast and feel good before Afridi changes his mind yet again! Whether it s his leg-spin, sixes or changing statements, Afridi does every quite quickly!

 

“Whenever we go to India, we participate in the charity programmes. I have a played a lot in India. We get a lot of love there. The cricketers there are valued even more than in Pakistan. Playing in India is something I have enjoyed the most in my 14-year-old career,” said the Pakistan captain – when last heard!

 

Afridi is a thinking person rather a re-thinking person, to be precise. His latest rethink doesn t spare the politicians. “The media was disappointing when I came to Mohali. The media should talk about peace. We can t have much expectation from the politicians. People-to-people contact can only improve the relations.”

 

Afridi added that he will listen to the interview again. He made it a point to say that he is “not scared of anyone”. He took pains to say that he “likes India, its people. I want to play there ” In other words, it meant: ‘I m not scared of our politicians. I realized that I need to say the right things. I want to play in India (I mean IPL) and I cannot make these statements and hope to earn the megabucks that India offers to cricketers from other nations.”

 

Watch this space for more trapeze acts from Pakistan.

 

(H Natarajan, formerly All India Deputy Sports Editor of the Indian Express and Senior Editor with Cricinfo/Wisden, is the Executive Editor of CricketCountry.com. A prolific writer, he has written for many of the biggest newspapers, magazines and websites all over the world. A great believer in the power of social media, he can be followed on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/H.Natarajan and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/hnatarajan )